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Four ways to prepare for a tough interview

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The thought of being interviewed by a pack of journalists is enough to spark fear in even the most seasoned spokesperson. Reporters, by their very nature, will often try to trip you up in the hope you accidentally reveal a nugget of information you would rather have kept hidden, handing them a story or a sensational headline.

How you respond to interview questions and deal with media scrutiny can have a huge impact on the reputation of your company and its narrative in the public sphere – that’s why it’s vital to know what to say when the spotlight is on you.

Interviews are an integral part of any company’s public relations strategy and managing them effectively can mean the difference between boosting your company’s reputation or ripping it to shreds.

During an interview, you’re more than likely going to come across a journalist who will ask you challenging questions.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for a tough interview:

Do your homework before the interview: The journalist will do research on you and your organisation. It’s important that you do the same. Find out where the journalist is from, what type of stories they cover and how they write their stories. You’ll be able to predict how they’ll set the tone for the interview and what angles they’re looking for.

Memorise your key messages: During an interview, it’s best to just stick to three or four key messages. These are bits of information you want to send out to the public. Regardless of the question you’re asked, it’s always good to reinforce these messages.

Don’t fall for the tricks: There are many ways a journalist will try and probe answers out of you. For example, a journalist might ask you to predict the future or ask you to comment on a hypothetical. Don’t be led into unfamiliar territory and stay on message instead. If they ask you a question or statement that you can’t answer, refer to the key message instead. Remember not to use the phrase “No comment”, as journalists might interpret this as an admission of guilt. It also shows a lack of empathy and could even be used as proof of dishonesty.

Don’t use negative language: Journalists will often use sensational language or describe a situation negatively, in the hopes you’ll repeat it. If you do use negative language, it will most likely be taken out of context and turned into a negative headline. If a journalist throws you a negative phrase, instead turn it into a positive or how you’re addressing the situation.